Keeping Spirits Bright: How to Handle Holiday Stress

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Keeping Spirits Bright: How to Handle Holiday Stress

While there are many reasons we call the holidays “the most wonderful time of the year,” parents can sometimes start to question whether or not this is true! Lists of things to do and buy pile up; stress levels run high; colds are common; and it feels like everyday problems are more difficult to handle.

No matter how old your child is, from toddlers to teens, the holiday season can also bring out some emotions, moodiness, and tantrums that make events not-so-merry.

5 Tips for Handling Stress During the Holidays

With this quick guide, we offer some tips to help keep your holiday filled with joy and special moments. By making some important health choices, while also making things fun, your family is sure to enjoy the month ahead.

Have your own tricks for staying sane during the holidays? Share them in the comments or on our Facebook page. We are all in this together! Read our tips below to get started.

Prioritize Sleep

During this exciting time of year, sleep can sometimes become less of a priority. With packed schedules, including parties and travel, kids can sometimes be pushed off their schedules and left feeling groggy and moody.

Especially for younger kids, sleep is neglected because of the excitement of Santa, seeing family and friends, or giving and receiving gifts. This excitement causes kids to stay up later, and can make both kids and parents grumpy.

Instead, put your focus on maintaining schedules and encouraging sleep. If your child is too excited for sleep, remind them that the sooner they fall asleep, the sooner they can enjoy the fun happening the next day. Many parents also use tools, such as Elf on the Shelf, to encourage good behavior and early bedtimes. Find ways to encourage your child to sleep that keeps everyone happy.

For teenagers, it is important to encourage additional sleep, naps, and early bedtimes to maintain normal schedules. Teenagers can sometimes feel the stress of the holidays more – between school exams, jobs, and saving money for gifts. Give them some room to have fun but also to rest up. For teens who are a little more sluggish, give them tasks to do to keep them active and engaged. While it is important for them to rest, you also want to keep a balance!

Most importantly, as a parent, it is important to give yourself a break and room to rest. If you are stressed, your energy impacts your family around you. By getting enough rest, taking breaks, and knowing your limits, you can enjoy a happier holiday.

Encourage Healthy Choices

Just like sleep, diet can have a huge impact on your child’s mood. Unfortunately, the holiday season is laden with sugar-filled options, from the cookie tables to the casseroles!

To keep kids from having too much sugar and carbohydrates – swinging their emotions and energy from high to low – it is important to set some guidelines. Here are a few tips to help keep diets healthy during the holidays:

  • Start with vegetables first – start with salads or vegetable plates, which can encourage kids to fill up on healthy options before digging into the heavier dishes.
  • Have portioned plates – for families with young kids, portioned plates may already be a staple in your house. If you don’t have these plates, remember to keep plates balanced. Additionally, using smaller sized plates can keep plates from filling up too quickly with too much food.
  • Stay hydrated – often, we can feel hungry when we are simply thirsty. Keep kids hydrated with water, milk, or juice to reduce their hunger pangs.
  • Make simple swaps to recipes – lighter versions of holiday recipes can make us all feel good! Making simple swaps, like reduced fat options or adding in more vegetables, can make holiday favorites easier to enjoy.
  • Limit number of desserts – cookies, cakes, and pies, oh my! There is so much to enjoy during this sweet time of year; however, it doesn’t have to be enjoyed all at once. Keep kids’ dessert plates limited to one or two items, reminding them that they can try other desserts later. Spacing out the amount of sugar, while giving your child time to digest, can help.

Similarly, it is important to encourage exercise that can help get out pent up energy and excitement. The more exercise your child has, the more likely he or she will sleep well and be ready for another day of fun!

Make New Traditions

As mentioned above, getting out and active can help improve sleep, while also making great memories. We are lucky that in the Memphis area, we have so many options for getting out and exploring some of the fun holiday events. Often, these events can become holiday staples for years to come.

For instance, you can enjoy winter wonderlands with Zoo Lights at the Memphis Zoo, Holiday Wonders at the Memphis Botanic Gardens, the Enchanted Forest at the Pink Palace, or Starry Nights at Shelby Farms. Enjoy festive decorations at the Peabody Hotel (and say hi to the ducks!), attend fun tree lighting ceremonies, and find opportunities to visit Santa around town.

With older kids, keep the fun going by starting new family traditions. Have an annual family football game; take a family walk or bike ride on the Greenline or at Big River Crossing; or attend fun holiday shows and theatre events at venues like the Orpheum, Memphis Ballet, Hattiloo Theatre, Theatre Memphis, Playhouse on the Square, and more.

Making time for creative outlets, activity, and reflection on the season lifts spirits and makes memories that will last a lifetime.

Shift Focus

Often, the holidays can become filled with hectic schedules and gift giving, distracting us from the love and kindness we should be sharing. Shift focus away from stress and focusing on yourself – look for ways to help someone in need.

Memphis has plenty of service opportunities where families can get involved. From soup kitchens to Meals on Wheels, caring for the environment with clean-ups, or donating toys to kids in need, there are so many ways to help out!

Visit websites like Volunteer Memphis and Volunteer Odyssey to find your next volunteer opportunity today.

Get to the Heart of the Matter

Is your child experiencing larger behavioral issues? Have these problems been long-lasting and are only exacerbated by the holidays? It’s time to get to the heart of the problem: what is wrong, and why is your child acting out?

As your partners in raising happy and healthy kids, Pediatrics East wants to hear if there is something deeper that seems to be bothering your child. While the holidays can be difficult emotionally – especially if you have recently lost a family member, gone through a divorce, or moved – kids can also be suffering from more profound illnesses. The sooner we can identify and address these problems, the better.

If you are sensing that there is something wrong with your child’s behavior or emotions, take time to talk and to listen. Sometimes little exercises like drawing and playing with others can be indicative of how your child is experiencing the world around him or her. Notice areas where problems or worrisome issues arise. We want to hear from you and work out problems together!

Wishing You a Wonderful Holiday Season, from Pediatrics East!

As we like to remind parents from time to time: your child is only little for a little while. Even though the holidays can be stressful, this is the time to appreciate the wonder a child experiences.

When moods and tantrums get in the way, make space to find out what is wrong, take a break, and refocus priorities. Whether you have a grumpy teen or a sleep-deprived toddler, there are always ways to calm down and make moods brighter. We know the holidays can be hard for many; find ways to put the focus on your family, on helping others, and on making memories.

As always, we are here to help! Contact us if you are worried about any behavioral issues, emotional problems, or just general health needs. We are here to lend a helping hand. We can be reached by phone at 901-757-3535.

We wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to seeing you in the new year!

Posted by Tim Flatt at 10:04 AM
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